Same difference: the interplay of the physical and the vitural in the creation of a digital image series

Nigel Power

On one level, Same Difference is simply an exploration of algorithmic imaging. The project takes as its starting point a single simple graphic routine. This 'drawing engine' takes geometric picture primitives and transforms these repeatedly using a combination of regular and random variables, 'stamping' the resulting forms iteratively on screen to create more or less complex linear forms. The many hundreds of images that are quickly generated in this way are mined for thematic potential, and candidate drawings then explored using a small set of simple image processing algorithms, or 'painting engines'.

On another level, however, the project asks questions about what it means to create images computationally in the first place. In reality the neat method described above is messy and ambivalent, the division of labour harder to fathom. The process moves unpredictably back and forth between the physical and the virtual, the desk and the screen, between sketch, program, run-time animation, annotated print and writing. In doing so, the work explores the complex, ambiguous and reflexive relationships between these spheres of activity and embodies the central aesthetic concern of the work; liminality.

The thematic potential alluded to above is more difficult to verbalise than either the idealised or actual creative processes. This is because, on the one hand, it is impossible to extract formal concerns from technological or processual ones without loosening the intellectual coherence of the work overall. Suffice to say that a process that lives in liminal regions results in outcomes that themselves are explorations of the liminal; the contested territories of figure and ground, presence and absence, persistence and change, abstraction and figuration, the virtual and the physical.

Examples of the above work have been exhibited in Seoul and Bangkok. A solo show exploring processes and outcomes is planned for Bangkok in mid 2008.

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